February 26, 2008
Washington, D.C. -- At a recent press conference on Capitol Hill, Congressman Steve Chabot called on House leaders to act on legislation to save the Delta Queen. The historic steamboat faces an uncertain future due to the pending expiration of a congressional exemption which currently allows the Delta Queen to operate as an overnight passenger vessel.
“The Delta Queen is an experience you can't get in a museum or from the history books - you have to live it and it's worth preserving,” said Congressman Chabot. “I know that the American people do not want this national treasure to be forced ashore and Congress needs to act before an important chapter in our nation’s history is closed.”
Joining Congressman Chabot at the press conference (Pictured Above) were Congressman William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio, Congressman Steve Cohen and Congressman Marsha Blackburn, both from Tennessee. Mr. Jay Webster, the former Director of Engineering for the Delta Queen, also spoke at the press conference about the numerous safety features that have been added to the Delta Queen to ensure the safety of the passengers while maintaining the boat’s traditional look and feel.
“The Delta Queen is more than an irreplaceable historic vessel, it is also a symbol of the bold American spirit that had the courage to tame the continent and make us one nation, from sea to shining sea,” said Congressman William Lacy Clay. “This is the right thing to do for the Delta Queen. And it’s the right thing to do for future generations of Americans and international visitors who deserve the chance to travel on this magnificent vessel.”
The Delta Queen began operating as a sternwheel river steamboat in 1926 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989. For the last 40 years, the Delta Queen has operated within the rivers of the U.S. under a congressional exemption because the paddle wheeler maintains a wooden superstructure and does not meet certain regulations specified under the 1966 Safety at Sea Act. Recognizing the difference between boats operating within rivers and those operating at sea, Congress established the exemption in 1968 and has renewed it on nine separate occasions to allow the Delta Queen to continue overnight passenger cruises.
“It would be a terrible loss if the Delta Queen was unable to continue operating,” stated Congressman Tim Walz of Minnesota in a prepared statement. “The Delta Queen is a National Historic Landmark and the last operational overnight steam-powered sternwheeler in the United States.”
Without congressional action, the current exemption will expire on November 1, 2008. Bipartisan legislation to extend the exemption (H.R. 3852) was introduced by Congressman Chabot on October 16 of last year and currently has 26 cosponsors.